A recent two-year clinical trial in Finland (the FINGER Study) reported that a combination of physical activity, nutritional guidance, cognitive training, social activities and management of heart health risk factors protected cognition in healthy older adults who were identified as being at increased risk of cognitive decline. Currently no pharmacological treatments are available that rival this effect.
“There is an urgent need to expand this work to test the generalizability, adaptability and sustainability of the FINGER study’s findings in geographically and culturally diverse populations in the U.S. and across the globe,” Morris said. “While there is no proven cure or prevention for dementia, current research shows that combining healthy lifestyle factors may counteract risk and help stave off dementia.”
At the Alzheimer’s Association international conference held in Los Angeles in July, researchers at Rush presented study findings that suggest that healthy lifestyle choices such as exercise and cognitive stimulation may decrease cognitive decline and dementia. Using data from 1,845 participants of the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) and 920 participants of the Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP), the research team examined how healthy lifestyle mitigates the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia.
The researchers focused on five low-risk lifestyle factors: healthy diet, at least 150 minutes/week of moderate to vigorous physical activity, not smoking, light to moderate alcohol intake, and engaging in cognitively stimulating activities.
During 14 years of follow-up, there were 379 (21%) and 229 (25%) incident cases of Alzheimer’s dementia in CHAP and MAP, respectively. For study participants who adopted four or five low-risk lifestyle factors, researchers found about 60% lower risk of Alzheimer’s dementia when compared with participants who did not follow any or only one of the low-risk factors. The researchers found that when engaging in an additional low-risk lifestyle factor, the participant’s risk of Alzheimer’s dementia decreased by 27%.
“This study highlights the importance of following multiple healthy lifestyle practices for lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia,” said Dr. Klodian Dhana, assistant professor in Rush Medical College’s Department of Internal Medicine. “In the U.S., adherence to a healthy lifestyle is low, and therefore promoting these lifestyle factors should become the primary goal for public health policies.”